Moscow’s control of the port of Latakia in northwest Syria came to give Russia control over the Syrian coast after it had previously controlled the port of Tartus.
This was supposed to be normal in light of the strategic relations between Moscow and Damascus, and the great role the Russian army played in preventing the fall of the Syrian regime after its direct intervention in 2015, but the matter carries other dimensions related to the competition between Moscow and Tehran.
Despite a government decision from Damascus to transfer the management of the port of Latakia to an Iranian one, Moscow prevented the implementation of a large number of economic agreements and memoranda of understanding between Tehran and Damascus in 2017, which gave Iranian companies many concessions in the fields of phosphate, agricultural, gas and oil in Syria.
It seems that Moscow found in the Israeli raids on the port of Latakia an appropriate opportunity to pull the rug out from under Iran and lay its hands on it.
The United States had cut off the land route between Tehran, Damascus and Beirut by controlling the Al-Tanf base on the Syrian-Iraqi border. Late Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, who was assassinated in an American strike in January 2020, responded by establishing an alternative supply line by taking control of the Al-Bukamal crossing, which was also subjected to many strikes.
The air supply line through Damascus Airport has also been subjected to many attacks. Faced with these facts on the land routes across the Iraqi borders and through the air via Damascus Airport, Iran’s eyes turned to the port of Latakia in order to be an alternative line of supply to Syria, but Russia extended its hand to Latakia to disrupt the growth of Iranian influence in Syria and its contention with Moscow.
It is worth noting that Iran’s project to build a land line extending from Tehran to Syria passes through Iraqi territory, and therefore Iran is active in that region to secure this road and aims through it to deliver military support to the Lebanese Hezbollah, which is Iran’s military agent in the Arab countries. Its missile systems are constantly updated, as well as the fleet of drones and military support that reaches other militias in the region, such as the Houthis and other groups that train in Lebanese camps.
Mohamed Alaeddin, a researcher in Iranian affairs, stressed that the Iranian land bridge project extending to the Mediterranean cannot be abandoned by Tehran overnight. Rather, the money and efforts made by the mullah regime will make it keen to reap the fruits of its efforts and not abandon this project.
Alaeddin added that the current circumstances that the Iranian project is going through in Syria can be described as a temporary setback, because Moscow has not taken major and explicit measures against Tehran, but the matter is still in the process of bargaining and squabbling over the gains in Syria.